Opinion: the end of the vision, pt 2

This follows on from yesterday’s post.

But something happened around new year 2011…

The Tory right, previously marginalised and outweighed by the Lib Dems, somehow forced their way back into the story. Whereas previously it was clear that the Cameron-Clegg axis was running the show, it became increasingly clear that the Hague-Osborne axis was the conduit for the will of the Tory right. The Tory right became petrified that AV would lead to perpetually bland “One Nation” Tory policies and prevent a Thatcherite party winning power alone again. (They were right, of course).

But whereas Cameron had previously gone on without the Tory right, for some reason in the New Year he changed his mind. So, as the elections brewed he condoned a giant campaign by the Tories behind NO2AV to destroy his Deputy and the Lib Dems generally, knowing full well that this would lead to their slaughter at the polls. He would also break his agreement not to become directly involved in the issue and storm into the AV debate like a juggernaut, and in repeated fierce interventions he carried NO to an absolutely massive victory, killing electoral reform in the country for a generation. (Is it a rule that Prime Ministers must always break agreements they make with their number two?)

As some have pointed out, this was unnecessary, as it looked like AV was going to be narrowly defeated anyway. But… lined up behind him were the Labour tribalists and the Tory right, both of who despise the Lib Dems with a vengeance, detest multi-party politics and plurality, and desire nothing – nothing at all – more than a hasty return to the 2-party pendulum that guarantees absolute Tory power 2/3 of the time and Labour power for 1/3 of the time. In the minds of these people (Reid, Blunkett, Hague, etc) the Lib Dems, hung parliaments, pluralism, compromise, are all essentially symptoms of the same thing and could all be destroyed in a single campaign of vilification of all things Lib Dem.

A remarkable plan, fantastically executed, and as we see, incredibly successful. The Tory right and the Labour tribalists emerged victorious… or at least the Labour tribalists would have done if Labour’s strategy of spending a year attacking all things Lib Dem hadn’t caused every Lib Dem in Scotland to vote SNP, leading to a truly remarkable landslide for Alec Salmond. Now the Labour tribalists are faced with having given the Tories an electoral system that could see them remain in power in an England-Wales only union for a generation. Oops.

So now the early Cameron-Clegg vision is in tatters, and will be buried without fanfare over the coming weeks. The future of the Coalition is no longer a vision of any kind, but merely a future of bitter marriage with the spouses staying together “for the sake of the kids” – i.e. to get the huge deficit under control. NHS reform is dead (which is good or bad, depending on whether you think the NHS is a perfect icon or desperately in need of massive restructuring), welfare reform and the Universal Credit now must look wobbly, which I think most people would agree is a great shame.

But there’s worse: the Tory right have their nails so far under Cameron’s skin now that he has said he will oppose House of Lords reform – despite it being in the Coalition agreement and of course in the 2010 Tory manifesto. There is at least some symmetry in most of Labour’s MPs opposing AV even though it was in their 2010 manifesto, and then most Tory MPs opposing Lords reform despite it being in theirs. And people say the Lib Dems put things in their manifesto just to win votes? Well, at least the Lib Dems really wanted to do those things like ending tuition fees, if only they had the power. Labour and now the Tories are both set to actively oppose the things they said they’d do, even though they do have the power to do them.

Cameron was elected as PM on a platform of reform, but now appears to be the leading knight for the status quo. The “forces of conservatism” as Blair once found, are at work already. As a devout coalitionista, House of Lords reform for me personally is a red line. If Cameron sinks it – as opposed to just pushing it into the future to avoid the AV fall-out – it’s time to accept that we have been betrayed by a cabal of crypto-Thatcherites with a hidden agenda. At that point I think we would need to seriously consider taking the party into opposition.

It’s not too late for Clegg and Cameron to turn this around, but the ball is mostly in Cameron’s court, and I no longer fully trust him. He will have seen what happened to Labour in Scotland when they have an inept leader at election time, and will be tempted by other options now. The coming months are crucial, and some cool-headedness at the top is required. Outbursts from Lib Dem Cabinet members are not helping cool the situation and should stop, but Cameron should be made very clear that we are now near breaking-point. I have my fingers crossed for Nick and the coalition.

Cllr Mark Wright is Cabinet member for Efficiency and Value for Money on Bristol City Council and was the GE candidate in Bristol South in 2010.

Read more by .
This entry was posted in News.
Advert

20 Comments

  • Lords reform wasn’t promised in the Coalition Agreement. The commitment only went as far as bring forward proposals, not preventing MPs or Lords from having a free vote on them: “We agree to establish a committee to bring forward proposals for a wholly or mainly elected upper chamber on the basis of proportional representation.”

    Cameron wouldn’t be breaking the coalition agreement in allowing his party to oppose the plans, he wouldn’t even be breaking it if he were to oppose them himself. Proposals are there to be debated, thats what democracy entails.

  • How many times can you put “Labour” and “tribalists” in one piece and not see the irony that “Lib Dem” and “tribalists” also fit quite nicely too…

  • A lot of people have argued that AV/ PR would benefit the Left.

    Under those circumstances, it would be surprising if anyone in the Conservative Party favoured it. Why would Cameron want it any more than his right wing?

  • Gareth Jones 15th May '11 - 5:27pm

    Some research appeared to indicate AV might be beneficial to the Tories. I attach two links people might find interesting.

    http://www.respublica.org.uk/blog/2010/05/why-conservatives-should-not-fear-av

    http://www.respublica.org.uk/blog/2010/06/av-only-option-21st-century-conservatives

  • “more than a hasty return to the 2-party pendulum that guarantees absolute Tory power 2/3 of the time and Labour power for 1/3 of the time”

    Small fact-ette. If the coalition runs its course there will have been 70 years since the end of WWII. The UK will have had roughly 35 years of Labour PMs and 35 years of Tory PMs. That figure only works because in the inter-war years the Tories saw their main opponent disintergrate and a new main opponent develop. Unsurprisingly they did well at that time!

  • @Alex M – I think both complacency and failure to look properly at the facts, if Neil Kinnock’s testimony is anything to go by. He wrote an article a few weeks ago where he described asking personal friends in the Labour party, e.g. Blunkett / Reid, why they were opposing AV so adamantly, and apparently they ‘gave him a knowing look and said “First Past the Post helps us”‘. Kinnock was bemused that they could misjudge the situation so badly, and I have to agree.

    @Chris H – agree completely.

  • “or at least the Labour tribalists would have done if Labour’s strategy of spending a year attacking all things Lib Dem hadn’t caused every Lib Dem in Scotland to vote SNP, leading to a truly remarkable landslide for Alec Salmond.”

    That is your analysis of the Holyrood election?! That the scottish losses/SNP victory were due to what Westminster Labour MPs did?

    sigh, the road to recovery is going to be a long one!

  • “or at least the Labour tribalists would have done if Labour’s strategy of spending a year attacking all things Lib Dem hadn’t caused every Lib Dem in Scotland to vote SNP”

    Do you not think being in coalition with the most hated party in Scotland may have a little to do with it, I have many Scottish friends from my time in the service and they to a man hated the Tories with a passion. Also worth pointing out that the Lib Dems have been pretty good at attacking all things Labour over the same period despite many on this blog warning it was a mistake..

    “There is at least some symmetry in most of Labour’s MPs opposing AV even though it was in their 2010 manifesto, and then most Tory MPs opposing Lords reform despite it being in theirs.”

    Labour’s manifesto promised a referendum, as they have always been (and probably always will be) split on voting reform anything more than this would not have been acceptable to at least half the candidates. They also promised to have a much more winnable referendum on Lords reform which was a mistake not to hold alongside AV.

    @Alex M
    “I do think that the full enormity of the consequences of the boundary changes going ahead without delivering AV can’t have fully struck the Labour party.”

    Perhaps they feel they can bring the coalition down before the boundary changes come into force. This is the threat that Clegg can still use against the Tories. That would give them potentially 5 years to come up with a fair system rather than the ridiculous constraints this BIll placed on the commision.

  • Three observations

    1) As I understand it, the Labour vote in Scotland held up and were were treated to PR magnifying shifts and creating a one-party majority despite the Labour vote holding. Perhaps not the best advert for some of the effects the YES to AV campaign talked about . I make no value comment on Labour here, but just to say that the Salmond majority was at the expense of parties other than Labour.

    2) As others have poined out, the Coalition Agreement does not promise HoL reform. What I expect will happen is that the Conservatives will sit back and watch Nick go into battle with 700 peers armed with nothing more substantial than a rolled up copy of the Independent.

    3) ‘The Tory right, previously marginalised and outweighed by the Lib Dems, somehow forced their way back into the story.’ Nick Clegg and Danny Alexander were cheering, smiling and back-slapping after THAT budget. I think you will find that the Tory right have been runnng the show and somehow convinced the Lib Dem leadership they had been marginalised.

  • @Cuse, ‘Labour-tribalists’ is being used to distinguish them from the significant elements of the Labour party that are not tribal.

    It describes an element of the Labour party that is willing to go to any lengths to attack the Lib Dems even to the extent that this may harm Labour’s longer term prospects.

  • Surely that is Ex- “Cabinet member for Efficiency and Value for Money on Bristol City Council” now that your Lib Dem colleagues in Bristol have dumped you?

  • Kevin Colwill 16th May '11 - 10:08pm

    A bit of understandable revisionism going on methinks. Not an analysis I can agree with though.

    For a start I don’t accept that Cameron is fundamentally different from the Tory right. I’ll give you that he, or his advisors, had the foresight to prepare for a hung parliament much more thoroughly than anyone else.

    I don’t have any particular insight into the mind of the PM but I’ve witnessed nothing that makes me think Cameron fancied perpetual coalition any more than Hague, Osborne et al. I believe he had thought through the implications of coalition and was quick to see how not having a parliamentary majority could be turned into a political advantage.

    New politics-smoo politics.

  • There is a difference here. When Liberal Democrats moderate the Conservatives, I think they are talking about the discriminatory, get Britain out of Europe, bring back corporal punishment Conservatives. Unfortunately the electorate wanted moderating the Thatcherite, small state, privatise everything, private is good, public is dogmatic Conservatives.

    To the shock and dismay of the electorate, it was discovered that the Orange Book Leadership of Clegg and Alexander has taken over the Liberal Democrats and have remarkably similar views on these issues to Cameron.

    This is why I am concerned that the Liberal Democratic party leadership will not stop the NHS bill. This will do irreperable and unforgiveable damage to the organisation.

    The Liberal Democrats, with particular regard to AV (and the NHS), remind me of the frog giving the lift to the Conservative scorpion across a stream. Half way across the scorpion stings the frog, meaning that the frog and the scorpion drown. ‘Why did you sting me ? We will both drown. The scorpion replies, well what do you expect I am a scorpion that’s what I do.

    This coalition is not going to have a happy end for the Liberal Democrats.

Post a Comment

Lib Dem Voice welcomes comments from everyone but we ask you to be polite, to be on topic and to be who you say you are. You can read our comments policy in full here. Please respect it and all readers of the site.

If you are a member of the party, you can have the Lib Dem Logo appear next to your comments to show this. You must be registered for our forum and can then login on this public site with the same username and password.

To have your photo next to your comment please signup your email address with Gravatar.

Your email is never published. Required fields are marked *

*
*
Please complete the name of this site, Liberal Democrat ...?

Advert



Recent Comments

  • Jeff
    …there is good reason to believe that the Omicron mutant may not have developed, or we would be able to control it better, if the developed world had made ...
  • Jeff
    The WHO issued a veritable flood of dire warnings. Dozens of NGOs did the same. So did an army of globalists who argued that… It’s not who says wh...
  • James Fowler
    @ Peter Watson, thank you! @ Joe Bourke, linking Parties the factors of production, I'd suggest: The Labour Party - well, the clue is in the name. The Conserva...
  • Jane Ann Liston
    I fear you are right about the Tories being highly motivated to vote. At the last election in St Andrews, the Conservatives stood a final-year student, who w...
  • Christopher Burden
    Thanks, Steffan Aquarone. IMO The essence of motivating voters is that they should feel part of something bigger, a 'great national movement', perhaps, or even ...